State: Lower Oconee hospital loses Medicaid, Medicare

State and federal agencies have stopped Medicare and Medicaid funding for Lower Oconee Community Hospital in Wheeler County.

That's according to Lisa Marie Shekell, communications director for the state Department of Community Health.

This comes as several employees told 13WMAZ that they haven't been paid for as much as three weeks.

The 25-bed hospital nearly closed two months ago, but reopened under new ownership.

The new CEO, Norman King, today told 13WMAZ that reports that employees were not getting paid were "not totally accurate."

He declined to discuss details, but later said some employees' checks may have been held up by routing problems.

He said his company is solvent.

Lower Oconee is a 25-bed hospital in Glenwood.

Shekell today said the state DCH pulled Lower Oconee's Medicaid provider ID after a federal agency, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, suspended the hospital's Medicare status.

A spokeswoman for the federal agency did not return our phone call.

Shekell said the DCH is still investigating the matter, and she would not comment on what could cause the Medicare and Medicaid funding to get revoked.

Medicaid is a federally funded program, run by individual states to fund health care for the needy. Medicare, run by the federal government, provides health insurance for the elderly and disabled.

Together, they fund a huge part of the budget for most hospitals, including rural hospitals like Lower Oconee.

Several employees told 13WMAZ's Tom George that they had not been paid in two or three weeks.

They planned to attend a 2 p.m. meeting with CEO King. The meeting was not specifically about the paycheck issues, but employees said they expected it would be discussed.

After the meeting, one employee told us she left without a clear sense of when she might get paid, and said the CEO told them they need to report to work or get fired.

Last month, King, CEO of Charlton Healthcare Corp., said he planned to maintain services at the troubled hospital, but planned to reduce staff there from 120 or so people to 75 or 80.

The previous owners said the hospital "suspended operations" in February, but King said it never actually closed.

Follow 13WMAZ's Tom George on Twitter @thetomgeorge


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